Netflix has a really solid documentary up on Ella Fitzgerald that we’d recommend any music lover check out.
It talks a lot about her early life and the trauma she experienced after her mother died. And that when she went to the Apollo for Amateur Night, her original plan was to dance. However she saw two dancers ahead of her and realized she couldn’t compete with them so it was time for Plan B.
So she sang, and a legend was born.
People realized almost immediately that she was an extraordinary talent but the interesting thing is that she had at least three distinct phases to her career.
- The early years with Chick Webb, when she had a clean, bright tone to her voice.
- Her ferocious foray into bebop and scat singing when she taught the world that the voice was just as much of an instrument as any horn
- Her later years when she redefined the Great American Songbook, a grand project that Willie Nelson picked up and continued.
There are a lot of touching moments in this documentary but one that really stands out is when someone talks about her leaving the stage and wondering if people liked it.
In one of her final appearances, she joked that she was working on rap. Don’t think for a minute that she couldn’t have either. She was hugely talented and if she had lived long enough she probably would have had some hits in that genre too.